Life Learning

Saturday 17 February 2018

Exam diary: A day tinged with sadness as we leave our national tongue behind

Yesterday was a sad day. As I finished Irish Paper 2 at 12:49pm and sealed my answer book, knowing it was to be my last official exam through the Irish language, a sense of sadness came over me.

According to State Examinations Commission figures, more students this year will take higher-level French than higher-level Irish and this makes one wonder if the State has failed in its duty to help us embrace our national tongue and, indeed, feel at ease with our culture.

Watching students' happy faces at the prospect of not writing or speaking Irish ever again, I recalled my own Irish oral where my 17 minutes on the state of the language was becoming a reality.

But enough of the pessimism, Paper 2 was a very good paper. In what was probably the worst-kept secret since Richard Bruton's desire to be leader of Fine Gael, Cathal O Searcaigh made a long overdue appearance in the higher-level paper.

The main problem was the unclear layout and the nooks and crannies throughout and if you didn't read the instructions or know the format of the paper off by heart, it was easy to leave out a question (thankfully, this didn't happen to me).

I began with possibly the most pointless part of the whole Irish course -- Stair na Gaeilge. However, a quick five minutes jotting down the main differences in the different dialects and, ironically, the decline of the Irish language, allowed me more time to dissect poetry and stories for the next three-and-a-half hours.

After finishing my answer on O Searcaigh, I moved on to Martín O Direain and then on to Pros and the one book Leaving Cert students will not miss -- 'An Triail'.

After nearly three hours and 20 minutes of solid writing and checking to make sure the tuiseal ginideach was being followed, it was time to seal the book, take a deep breath and leave the exam hall without bursting into tears at the sadness of the occasion.

It was then time for a quick text to Dean to see what the mood on the business paper was like. Most people in my school were happy. The only real surprise was the fact the ABQ was based on a hotel instead of a shop or a company. A lot of students were stuck for time and many felt that an extra 20 minutes would have made a big difference.

Next up it's French and history, so time to get the croissants ready, don the black and white stripy jumper, place a string of garlic around our necks and in the words of the 'Marseillaise', "aux armes, citoyens, formez vos bataillons et marchons", and hope that I don't make too much of a faux pas in either paper.

Peadar Ó Lamhna is a student at St Macartan's College, Monaghan

Irish Independent

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